Every NCAA athlete in the country will be able to earn money with endorsements and through a variety of other companies starting Thursday.
The NCAA board of directors decided Wednesday to officially suspend the organization’s rules that prohibit athletes from selling the rights to their names, pictures and likenesses. The new rules represent a major change in the association’s definition of amateurism, one that NCAA leaders previously believed was contrary to the nature of college sports.
The board’s decision comes after several years of debate and just a day before more than a dozen states enact laws that will make it illegal for schools to follow old NCAA rules that, until this week, prohibited athletes earn money.
The NCAA rules that prevent schools from paying players directly remain intact. The board directed schools to ensure that payments to athletes are not expressly for their athletic achievements and to ensure that payments are not used as incentives for recruitment.
The new rules will allow athletes to make a profit by monetizing social media accounts, signing autographs, teaching camps or lessons, starting their own businesses, and participating in advertising campaigns, among many other potential businesses. Athletes will be able to sign with agents or other representatives to help them acquire endorsement deals.
Some opportunities will be restricted, but the types of restrictions will vary based on state laws and policies created by individual schools. For example, some, but not all, state laws prohibit athletes from endorsing alcohol, tobacco, or gambling products. Some, but not all laws prohibit athletes from using their school logos or other copyrighted material in promotions.
According to Wednesday’s rule change, schools in states that have a NIL law on the books must follow state law as they determine what their athletes can do. The NCAA instructed schools located in states without an active NIL law to create and publish their own policies to bring clarity to the gray area and come up with a plan to resolve any disputes that arise.
Those interested in college sports have tried for more than two years to develop more specific guidelines to help schools navigate the inevitable and considerable gray areas that will emerge from trying to navigate the general rules that shape the unprecedented new market created by these changes. The legal concerns, which were amplified by last week’s Supreme Court opinion on the NCAA’s business model, forced lawmakers to be less detailed and prescriptive than they would have preferred.
The board of directors said Wednesday that the rule changes are intended to be temporary to ensure that all athletes have some opportunity to benefit from NIL as state laws begin to take effect. The board hopes that Congress will help create a uniform national law that will allow clearer regulations for future NIL agreements for college athletes.
Members of Congress have proposed more than half a dozen bills aimed at reforming college sports. Some focus specifically on addressing a national standard for NIL agreements. Others are looking to add some significant changes that include giving athletes additional medical benefits, more educational opportunities, and the right to collectively bargain in the future. Disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over the scope of the changes Congress should impose on the NCAA have stalled legislative efforts in Washington, DC, in the past month.
Meanwhile, athletes across the country are preparing for new opportunities on the eve of what some in college sports say will be the industry’s most transformative summer since Title IX was enacted nearly 50 years ago. Several high-profile athletes are expected to announce new partnerships and agreements starting Thursday morning.